Ten weeks ago, the new Austin Central Library began charging the highest parking rates of any Texas cities’ central libraries. These parking rates are at odds with Austin Public Libraries’ mission to provide equal access to all citizens.
In their equity commitment posted online, the Austin Public Library promises to “assure that all citizens of Austin have equal access to library services and programs.” The cost of parking for the new central library, however, poses a financial barrier for many low-income families and students hoping to enjoy the resources and programs the new library has to offer.
To understand just how high the new Austin Central Library rates are, compare them to the cost of other major cities’ central libraries. The cost for two hours of parking at the Austin Central Library is $7.00. In San Antonio, it’s free. In Dallas, it’s $1.50..
Kanya Lyons, senior public information specialist for the Austin Central Library, explained the current parking rates in a KXAN interview. “There’s so many people here, so I mean it’s just a necessity at this point to charge a little bit for parking,” Lyons said. “We also really want to encourage people to use alternative transportation
Even if overcrowding of the library is a serious issue, filtering out poorer library guests by charging absurdly high parking rates and delegating them to less-convenient modes of transportation should never be thought of as a solution. Depriving low-income children, students and adults of easy access to the libraries services poses a far greater problem than overcrowding ever could. It forgoes the values and principles that public libraries are created for in the first place.
Crystal Hicks, assistant library director of Nacogdoches Public Library, says that
making library services and programs as easy and available as possible to all citizens, regardless of income, is “something most librarians adhere to … We serve everybody equally; we encourage everybody equally.”
Hicks explains that underprivileged citizens who don’t have the same access to information as their peers “are at an immediate disadvantage to move on and be successful in life. The Austin Public Library has done and continues to do so much to ensure these underprivileged citizens have access to library services, regardless of their income. The current parking rates for new central library do not reflect this vision. Lowering the prices to be at least in range with the standard set by every other major city in Texas will help ensure that every citizen has the ability to be empowered and informed by the information and programs the Austin Central Library has to offer.
Zaher is a government and european thought sophomore from Hudson.